Thursday, August 13, 2009

Change We Can Believe In?

Politics..... Uh oh....

What are the two most controversial topics today, and most likely ever? Politics and Religion. Since I'm not a religious person, rather I'm in a relationship with God, I'll talk politics (with a touch of relationship). But on a side note, people can argue religion until they are blue in the face, but they can never argue with my personal relationship with God. It's something I experience every day and know to be true, so there is no need for me to argue the point. Anyway......

I've followed this campaign closely for a couple of years now. Let's say, I wasn't too pleased with John McCain as the pick, nor was I pleased with Barack Obama. Throw in another party or non-affiliate and you just draw votes from one of the two major parties. This is always problematic seeing how one candidate may be more qualified than all but since they are not one of the 2 major parties, they don't have a chance.

One thing I've noticed as of late, Barack Obama has really been aggressive in getting HIS agenda ahead of all else. People continue to blindly follow his lead without doing any type of research. Obviously the most recent is the Health Care debate. I have seen so many arguments against it with various interpretations and points of views, while the talking points of those who are for it are all the same. Does this mean people are blindly following President Obama? I would think so.

The man who ran for the Presidency is not the same man people are seeing today. The campaigner, ran on Hope and Change. Getting rid of the old and sprucing it up with the new. Fresh ideas, fresh faces and lots of love for everyone. I understand why people followed him so easily. Obama was one who not only encouraged you to believe in him, but for you to believe in yourself. Legalism in religion will kill anything that God wants to do. Legalism says, you can do this, you cannot do that. Jesus said, "Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence. This is the most important, the first of any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: Love others as well as you love yourself. These two commands are pegs; everything in God's Law and the Prophets hangs from them." (Matthew 22:37-38 The Message). As a believer, I am to love God, and in the same manner, love people (AS I LOVE MYSELF).

Barack Obama ran on the most important principles of God. No, he didn't advocate loving God, but he did show the appearance of a love for people and encouraged people to do the same as well as believe in themselves. This is why he was so successful. He was using a biblical principle that Jesus walked in daily. This is why CROWDS always gathered around Jesus.

What do we have today, months after the election? We have a man who wants us to simply believe in him, regardless of facts. We have someone who would have us trust his judgment over our own. This is why so many are turning away from supporting President Obama. He has done a complete 180 of what his campaigning was about. It is no longer, "Hey, I believe in you", but these people are plants of the right wing party. The true colors are showing as someone who HAD good words, but the actions spoke much differently.

After thinking out loud (in writing), I must reiterate, this is not about a man in office. It's not about who we voted for. It's not about, someone saving us from ourselves. This is about who we are and how we all fit together. It's about us believing in ourselves once again and not relying on other people to substantiate who we are. It's about loving people and treating each other with respect and not contempt. It's about simply being compassionate for our beliefs but to not tread on others in the process. It's about having civil debates and not having debates and being ignored.

The best teaching method that has ever been used is the one where the teacher demonstrates in action. Where one can honestly say, do as I do. Even Jesus looked at the Pharisees then told His followers to "do as they say, not as they do". That is real hypocrisy, and unfortunately it's coming from the highest office in our land.

The ending of this story is to be determined. Will I follow my own advice and love God, love people and love myself? I intend to, hopefully I can leave a legacy of love for my children.

This is the "Change" we can believe in, one that is internalized and reflects True Love....

Monday, July 27, 2009

Conditional Grace

Give and take, give and take, give and take, that's "conditional grace". Somehow, Christianity has been watered down to a give and take mentality. Lord, I'm going to give you my Sunday morning and/or evening, and in return, I'm gonna take........

As a child growing up in a Christian family, I misunderstood what grace was. I could quote scripture, I could tell bible stories with accuracy, I even read the bible at least 8 times through. But in the end, they were words without understanding. I wouldn't say there was a lack of desire to understand on my part, rather, what was taught and demonstrated conflicted with what the Bible clearly says.

Every night I would lay my head on my pillow and "repent for my sins" with weeping, which is good, while I asked Jesus to "come into my heart", which was not so good. If I understood God's true grace, I would have no need to keep asking for Christ to be in my life, He'd already be there.

With a foundation of this misunderstanding of grace, I realized I never could live up to the expectations that were placed on me. The only logical thing was to run. Run as far from God as I could that still allowed me to return. Unfortunately, the further I ran, the more I believed I never could return and eventually just gave up.

This propelled me into a life of not extending that same grace. It's a be nice to me, I'll be nice to you mentality. Although I never took it to the extreme, there were areas of my life in which I would reject people because they harmed me in one way or another. Jesus tells us to "bless those that curse you, pray for those who mistreat you" (Luke 6:28 NIV), exactly the opposite of what I became.

Why do people oppose Christianity so strongly today? Simply put, a lack of understanding. Those who profess to be Christians too often criticize those who are not. This tends to come across as extremely judgmental and it's completely justifiable for a non-believer to reject Christianity. If this is the example of Christ, then why would anyone want to follow it? I know I didn't.

There was a part of me that always longed for Truth to prevail in my life. I went away to college and lived a life of drinking and using drugs. I had a roommate that was not the typical Christian. He had long hair and listened to Christian rock, which was definitely a taboo in my family, but he was so full of grace it was unbelievable. We had some great talks and it really created a deeper desire for me to have a relationship with God. I began attending a local church in which I truly enjoyed. The pull of my environment was still strong and church going was soon postponed.

I was dating someone who I remembered called me a hypocrite. That hurt because the last thing I wanted to become was a hypocrite. Of course, this was another misunderstanding of a commonly used word. The word means, "A person who pretends to have virtues, moral or religious beliefs, principles, etc., that he or she does not actually possess". This was not me. I never stated I was a Christian, I desired to have Truth in my life, but did not profess Christianity. It was strange that I was being called a hypocrite, but I moved on.

A few years later, I worked for a Christian man. I remember he had done something I didn't like and it had really offended me. Lo and behold, the word hypocrite was once again repeated, but this time by me. I remember the hurtful look on his face and him saying that he wasn't and that what I said was uncalled for. But I knew I was right. I moved on to another job. I tormented a poor woman who hated me from day one. She lashed at me any chance she had, and my rejection of grace spurred me on until I was swearing and throwing things at her. It wasn't a pretty picture. But what else did I know? I never knew the true meaning of grace.

If I would just be good enough, or smart enough, doggonit, people would like me. ;) This attitude had been the foundation of my walk with God and followed me throughout life.

The tipping point was when my then girlfriend (now wife) became pregnant. I was excited but I realized my life had to change. I drank and went to the bars almost every day and I was on a continuing path of self destruction, but I had enough. I remember asking God to help me and to be real in my life. I knew if I couldn't live the life for myself, I would live it for my family. Wrong attitude, but God's amazing grace used that moment to completely change my thoughts.

I now know, I live this life for Him, because I love Him. Nothing more, nothing less. His grace is so real, I couldn't begin to explain it, it's truly something one needs to experience.

At times, I still do things I shouldn't, and don't do things I should, the Bible calls this sin. The awesome part is, God never expected me to be perfect, because I am perfect in Him. Now I repent, learn from the mistakes and try not to repeat them. I don't fear losing my place in Heaven, because I have a real relationship with my Lord!

Conditional grace is no grace, it's simply a lie.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Age of Innocence

"The Age of Innocence" may provoke a remembrance of a book or movie, but for me it's much more. I had a simple reminder of the innocence of a child and how we are to live as believers in Christ.

1AT THAT time the disciples came up and asked Jesus, Who then is [really] the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? 2And He called a little child to Himself and put him in the midst of them, 3And said, Truly I say to you, unless you repent (change, turn about) and become like little children [trusting, lowly, loving, forgiving], you can never enter the kingdom of heaven [at all]. 4Whoever will humble himself therefore and become like this little child [trusting, lowly, loving, forgiving] is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5And whoever receives and accepts and welcomes one little child like this for My sake and in My name receives and accepts and welcomes Me. (Mathew 18:1-5)

As Christians, we too often forget the simplicity that God has called us to. We try to make things so difficult, we forget the very foundation of His love and how that projects us into His purposes.

Yesterday evening, Donna and I went out to eat. My oldest daughter, Jordan, stayed home and watched the younger children. Every night, either Donna or myself will take our 2 year old, Sage, to our bed and spend about a half hour with her. We begin by reading several books, sing several songs, pray and then put her in bed. This has been the routine for several months now and it's amazing how well she goes to bed when we spend a little time with her before she lays down.

Jordan took Sage into our room and went through the routine. We always pray for God to speak to us throughout the night through dreams but also ministering angels to protect and watch over us. Near the end of Jordan's prayer, Sage was looking up at the ceiling. She said, "look Sissy!" Jordan looked and didn't see anything and said what, I don't see anything.

Sage said, "It's a person!" At this point, Jordan was confused and excited all in one breath. Jordan then asked what color the person was and Sage said, "White, with yellow hair!" Again, Jordan was shocked, but very excited at this point. Then sage said, "And he has a band". Jordan asked "band?", "Yes, a stripe!"

"What color is it?", "Purple!"

So at this point, it was over, but it's pretty clear, Sage was describing an angel!

The next morning, I probed a little further. I have ALWAYS been very careful never to lead my children with my words, but have always phrased questions in a way that would allow them to answer without my influence.

"Sage, Jordan told me you saw a person last night"

"Yes, in the sky"

"What was he doing?"

"Just watching"

"Did he say anything to you"


"What did he say?"

At this point, she just smiled really big, giggled and didn't answer me. I asked again with the same response.

"Did he tell you his name?"


"Do you remember what it was?"

Again, a big smile and giggle and no answer!

I figured that was enough and stopped probing. She wasn't going to say anymore and I didn't know how to continue without putting words in her mouth.

That night, I began to dwell on what happened. The thought of innocence really sunk in and how important it is to walk with such a purity. As a Christian, I want to do what I can for God, but I tend to forget, all He wants from me is a loving relationship. Through that relationship, I will naturally please Him and it will cause me to do the things He desires.

You're blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world. (Matthew 5:8, The Message)